One of the questions many religious folks ask is, "Do I have to give a tithe (or 10%) of my income to the church?" Although the New Testament does not bind a specific percentage or portion of the Christian's income, we often gloss over the answer, and never really give a biblical answer to it. Personally, this writer has always felt that giving a tenth of one's income is a good place to start. In the Old Testament, given by Moses to Israel, there is no question but that tithing was required of Israel (Leviticus 27:30-32). In Numbers 18:26 we learn that the tithe of Israel was essentially for the inheritance of the tribe of Levi. Levi was set aside as a priestly tribe, and to minister to the things of the tabernacle and temple. Since they were not expected to farm or indulge in commerce, they were not given a land inheritance as were the other tribes, and so they needed to be supported. However what many may not understand is that the tithe was much older than the Law of Moses, and seems to be an accepted amount to give for religious purposes.

There is a shadowy figure in the Bible called Melchizedek. He is first mentioned in Genesis 14. Note what is recorded when Abram gave a contribution to him: "And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine. And he was priest of God Most High. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him a tenth of all" (Genesis 14:18-20). Abram had just returned from rescuing his nephew Lot, and Melchizedek refreshed Abram and his men. Melchizedek is also called "King of Salem" (later to be known as Jerusalem), and "Priest of God Most High." The text also tells us that Abram gave him a tenth of all the spoils. Later Jacob, again before the giving of the Law of Moses, promised God that he would give a tenth of all he possessed (Genesis 28:22). With both these examples the custom of giving to God a tenth of all seems to be a pattern or tradition, even before the Law of Moses commanded tithing upon them. However, when you really begin to research all the various gifts to God that Israel was to give, including the years that God required their fields to lie fallow, and the various sin offerings, and all the rest, the average Jew gave somewhere between 25%-40% of their income to God!

When the New Testament speaks about giving, the most complete instructions are found in 2 Corinthians chapters 8, and 9. These instructions deal with their giving for the poor in Jerusalem and Judea. The apostle Paul mentions the following principles. Their gift was to be determined by purpose (9:7) rather than emotion, coercion or other means. It was to be from a cheerful, loving heart (9:7), and they would reap (receive blessings) according their generosity in giving (9:6, 10). Their motives in giving were spurred by their love and willingness to commit themselves to the will of God (2 Corinthians 8:5; Romans 12:1; 1 Corinthians 13:1-3). We heard a gospel preacher say "We have been freed from the law of the tithe so that we can really be generous." Jesus said, "...give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you" (Luke 6:38, ESV). Obviously, the work of the church requires money, and we would suggest that 10% or a tithe would be a good place to start with the contribution of the church (1 Corinthians 16:1-2; Acts 20:7; 2 Corinthians 8, 9; Acts 4:34-35). We have opportunities all the time to help the homeless, feed a hungry soul, doing "good to all men" (Galatians 6:10), and only God Himself knows what we give back to Him through others. Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when He said "But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: that thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father who seeth in secret shall recompense thee" (Matthew 6:3-4).

 Ed Rodgers, De Leon, TX